U.N. Study Shows That More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets

woman making calls

On the eve of World Water Day last week, the United Nations offered a sobering statistic: according to its recent study, more people on Earth have access to cell phones than toilets.

Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, six billion have access to mobile phones. Far fewer — only 4.5 billion people — have access to working toilets. Of the 2.5 billion who don’t have proper sanitation, 1.1 billion defecate in the open, according to the study.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a statement that this is a global crisis that people “don’t like to talk about.” He said the U.N. is trying to cut in half the number of people without access to clean toilets by 2015 and eliminate by 2025 the practice of open defecation, which is linked to many diseases.

According to Yahoo, India alone is responsible for 60 percent of the global population lacking access to basic sanitation. About half of its 1.2 billion population are mobile subscribers, but only 366 million people, around one-third of its total population, have access to toilets, noted a 2010 U.N. report.

In August 2012, Bill Gates launched the campaign “reinvent the toilet” to reduce the number of children who die as a result of sanitation problems. According to the Los Angeles Times, The Gates Foundation offered in 2011 $42 million to researchers, asking them to build the toilet of tomorrow—one that is safe, hygienic, uses little water and easy to install.


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